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Baltimore working to change narrative after debunked 'panhandling' murder story

Posted at 5:12 PM, Mar 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-05 07:32:55-05

BALTIMORE — Perhaps the story Baltimore Police say Keith and Valeria Smith pushed about a panhandler stabbing and killing Jacquelyn Smith in December 2018 was, in fact, intentional.

While detectives wait to release the motive on why Jacquelyn was murdered, those in the city say Keith and Valeria's, now debunked story, caused more damage to some of the city's most vulnerable.

In the days following Jacquelyn's death, Keith was an advocate in reforming panhandling laws in the city.

It was red herring that took an entire off the two's trail and put blame on those on street corners.

"It was appalling to know that people are just that greedy and not thinking about the Lord versus life," Mark Rawls, an elder who prayed with Jacquelyn's family, said.

He, like everyone else, was stunned at the recent news.

The December story created a hysteria -- a fear of giving money to the less fortunate, even garnering a tweet from Oprah Winfrey herself.

"The story fell into this myth that all homeless people are criminals or all homeless people are violent which is so far from the truth," Rebecca Lorrick, the director at My Sister's Place women's center in downtown Baltimore, said.

The ripple effect of this alleged debunked story forced her, who at one point was homeless herself, to take a stand for the homeless women she sees and helps on a daily basis.

"If people just keep in mind that this a person and truly do what we do at Catholic Charities and cherish the divine within all and we say we cherish the divine in all, we truly do that," Lorrick said.

It's an added tarnish to a city looking to redeem itself says Councilman Robert Stokes who claims he knew something was off about Keith's story from the start.

"When I met the gentleman and his daughter, they had no remorse at all. But to use Baltimore City, where you don't live at, and use panhandling and give Baltimore another black eye, that's appalling and it's got to stop," said Stokes.

What shouldn't stop, Rawls says, is helping those who need it.

"There's still people in need. We shouldn't be discouraged by what happened. We should be servants and good stewards of what God's word is and to give to people as need," he said.